what is AMCI without a dash of drama? pretty boring, i have to say. very early into their training, the present crop of trainees has attracted a lot of attention, which for the most part has made it very interesting and far from humdrum. some people have flagged it as a gnawing concern requiring swift, decisive and preemptive action. while some people have been unnecessarily stressed by the situation, including myself, i have to admit that it was a source of amusement without which we'd have little to talk about in the after-training sessions we always have.
this year's BMC is off to a great start. it is a huge batch -- almost 60 even after the first training climb. we've never had that many since my own training -- and if they keep at it, we have a good chance of inducting more. we've struggled in the last few years trying to figure out why interest in AMCI's BMC is dwindling, when interest in mountaineering in general hasn't waned by any appreciable degree. i've always thought that it's AMCI's exacting standards that scares most people: the type of people that we attract -- professionals based in the CBDs -- are the same ones that cannot commit to the training. we have twice-weekly meetings consisting of physical exercises requiring everyone to run distances that is now at 8.8K, and carrying loads as much as 20% of their weight while going up and down several flights of stairs. in 2 months we hope they'd be able to run 15K in under 2 hours, and while many trainees seem to breeze through this aspect, others are struggling, perpetually missing the cut-off time by some minutes. i'm not an elite runner, not even at my best, but i often think that people who are not fast enough merely have imaginary balls of lead dragging their feet, and if only they can break free from the shackles of their perceived weaknesses and limitations, then this challenge shouldn't be so daunting.
i am deeply involved this year being in charge of academics, organizing lectures, and giving out exams. although i was AMCI president last year, my biggest contribution to the BMC was organizing the induction climb to mount mantalingahan. this time, i'm the devil in many details, helping map out a training program that ideally would, in 4 months' time, produce a stellar crop of responsible mountaineers. i have high hopes about this batch -- they've bonded over these last two months, and i'm sure many of them have started to sow the seeds of lasting friendships, if not enmity. i know this because i myself have found in the club people on whose able and experienced hands i would faithfully place my life. could you possibly say the same of many of your other friends? such is the genius of this BMC, and the shared misadventures that result from it.
the design of AMCI's BMC is such that anyone, regardless of his or her level of physical fitness, will be able to take on even the largest outdoor challenges, barring alpine conditions. we expose our trainees to situations requiring the strength and fortitude of a seasoned climber: able to make sound and timely decisions, and emerge triumphant even in the most taxing circumstances. that's why it requires so much of one's time, which is starkly different from the programs most outdoor clubs offer: they just organize overpriced open climbs, and after you've joined one or more of these, without the benefit of any physical or mental preparation, then you're already part of the group. while the shortcut is attractive to people who can't spare the time for a more structured and organized training plan, it also deprives you of the opportunity to expand your horizon: your reach is limited by the breadth of your preparedness, and your scope is stymied by the myopia of your experience, and as a result, you climb the same mountains over and over again, neither curious to expand the challenge nor increase the difficulty of your endeavors.
not to say that AMCI is the only group that dares to throw off the bowlines and sail far away from the safe harbor -- there are many countless others, some of them part of these informal groups, who attempt to do things that are outside their zones of comfort. but i've heard far too many stories where the campers end up embroiled in misery. and this is only one end of the spectrum; at its other extreme is tragedy. this happens because they've appropriated the word fun to measure the degree of difficulty of their forays to the mountains, rather than to describe their enjoyment from the experience regardless of the scale of the challenge.
AMCI's approach is the absolute inverse. during the BMC, our trainees are already exposed to situations that might make them want to swear off mountaineering altogether. it is embedded into the overall design of the training, placed with the intention to test our applicants' will and determination. it is not merely for the purpose of weeding those who are half-hearted about mountaineering, but also to make them aware that climbing mountains is serious business, where the excitement partly comes from the possibility, however remote, of placing your safety at risk, and your life in the hands of your fellow mountaineers, because under no other circumstance does one feel more alive until one's life is in the throes of danger. when finally you leave the mountain only a little scathed but nonetheless whole, you could always look back on that one singular experience each time you're mired in misery and say: i've been through worse and survived. that is why almost everything after the BMC training is easy and achievable.
becoming part of AMCI is really about building a network of like-minded individuals who can provide you with opportunities to pursue the things you're passionate about, and although there is an initial focus on travel and adventure, it eventually branches out to so many other avenues you may not have initially thought possible with a group that brands itself as responsible mountaineers. i've raided restaurants and explored the underbellies of unspoken cultures with people i've met here, while mountain biking, scuba diving, trail running in between. after two months, so many things have happened: a storied first climb, a wild acquaintance party, the red cross trainings, the wall climbing activity. and there a lot more things to look forward to. so let's hope we get to sustain this great start!